America doesn’t have a hereditary aristocracy—it just has members of the same families who occupy powerful positions from generation to generation. Consider the Cuomo family. Mario, the patriarch, rose from humble circumstances in Queens to become the governor of New York. One of his sons, Andrew, now fills the same job; Andrew’s younger brother, Chris, is a high-profile CNN anchor.
For a time years ago, CNN allowed Chris to interview the governor, despite the obvious questions about whether any younger brother could ever conduct an evenhanded interview of his big brother. (As anyone with siblings knows, the problem is as apt to be excessive toughness as going too easy.) Chris Cuomo defended the topics of these interviews as nonpolitical, and insisted that the problem was one of appearance, not substance. Still, CNN heeded the critics and banned Chris Cuomo from interviewing Andrew Cuomo from 2013 until March 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the New York governor at the heart of the coronavirus story, the rules were relaxed, and the Cuomo brothers began speaking on air regularly. The interviews were funny, as the brothers dredged up old beefs, and became poignant when Chris contracted COVID-19. It was easy to see what was gained: CNN got must-watch TV, and the governor’s office got a chance to humanize a politician more respected (usually grudgingly) than loved. With a little distance, it’s clear what was lost too: accountability for New York’s troubled response to the crisis.
Note that this is in the Atlantic, which isn’t opposed to tossing its own ethics aside to goose its Website’s stat counter.